Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Renée Fleming as Marschallin [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
26 Oct 2009

Der Rosenkavalier at the MET

The Met’s production of Der Rosenkavalier still arouses gasps from audience members as the curtain rises on each set — and laughter at appropriate moments — and tears at others.

Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

Octavian: Susan Graham; Marschallin: Renée Fleming; Sophie: Miah Persson; Baron Ochs: Kristin Sigmundsson; Italian Singer: Barry Banks; Faninal: Hans-Joachim Ketelsen; Annina: Wendy White. Conducted by Edo de Waart. Metropolitan Opera. Performance of October 19.

Above: Renée Fleming as Marschallin

All photos by Ken Howard courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

If it had been redesigned and restaged by Luc Bondy of this season’s Tosca, the rising curtain would not show us a splendid rococo bedroom with St. Stephen’s Cathedral subtly phallic in the distance but would be placed in an underground dormitory where three strapping stablehands would service the Marschallin whenever Octavian took a breather. No doubt we will live to see such a Rosenkavalier. For the moment, happily, we’ve still got the forty-year-old Nathaniel Merrill production on Robert O’Hearn’s sets, in which pretty much every action seems to take place synchronically with descriptions of or references to that action in Strauss’s score. How very Old Hat! (The hats — and gowns and wigs and uniforms — are probably less old, actually, though still in the proper style.)

Persson_Sophie.pngMiah Persson as Sophie

Last Monday, the production looked spiffy — how much of it is original and not rebuilt and repainted, I wonder? — and Edo de Waart led a sparkling performance of this most graciously autumnal of chestnuts. The comic business may be familiar, but it went off without a hitch, from the well-behaved lapdog and the wheezing lawyer in Act I to the dozen sword-waving hussars in Act II to the raucous children in Act III. Stage direction is credited to Robin Guarino, and there are some touches I don’t remember: Did the children always mistake Valzacchi and Faninal for their Papa and have to be rerouted? (That was funny.) Did the egotistical Singer (Barry Banks, in full satirical glory) always trample his music in disgust when leaving the levee? (So was that.) Did Baron Ochs always try to make out with another, more willing maid of the Marschallin when Mariandel proved elusive? Most interesting of all, maybe, did the Marschallin always totter about on an imaginary crutch when daydreaming of her future, aged self? Or has Renée Fleming come up with that bit in the years since she sang it last? She possesses comic chops she has scarcely used in her prima donna career — as has been true of many great stars.

What all this shows is the novelty that can be added, as casts change and work out new business, even in the most traditional stagings of thrice-familiar operas.

ROSENKAVALIER_Fleming_and_Graham_3750.pngSusan Graham as Octavian and Renée Fleming as Marschallin

As she has approached the Marschallin’s years (allowing for inflation of the youthful stage from the 1760s to our era), Fleming’s voice has grown thinner, less penetrating on top but fuller, more satisfying in the lower reaches, with less of the famous velvet cream that thrills her fans but annoys those of us who have found her phrasing inexact. These sins were always less noticeable in German roles anyway — Strauss keeps her on her mettle. She was humorous here, as suits a Viennese, and maintained hauteur without the goddess-like dimension Kiri Te Kanawa used to bring, perhaps inappropriately, to the final scene.

Susan Graham makes a more convincing bumptious boy than she does a graceful lady in certain other roles. While Fleming’s voice has lost some luster on top, Graham’s I find thinner, ungraceful, in the lower reaches, more inclined to the blundering quality of “Mariandel,” even when she is singing Octavian’s lines. Her acting is appealing in both the amorous scenes with Fleming and the “flirtatious” punches she gives the Baron whenever he grabs “Mariandel” inappropriately — but the dramatic peak of the night came when Graham and Miah Persson’s Sophie stopped dead, half bowing, eye to eye, infatuated at first glance at the presentation of the rose and seemed almost unable to continue in their aristocratic ritual.

ROSENKAVALIER_Fleming_Graham_Sigmundsson_Persson_4461.pngSusan Graham as Octavian, Renée Fleming as Marschallin, Miah Persson as Sophie and Kristin Sigmundsson as Baron Ochs

Miah Persson has a lively, energetic, easy high soprano, vocally lacking nothing called for by the part, but she lacked for me certain ideal Sophic qualities: there was less girlishness, less poutiness than with most. She was a woman, not a child — but Sophie is specifically a naïve fifteen. Her chatter on being introduced to the Marschallin was too calm for chatter, her breasts seemed awfully prominent and exposed for a girl fresh from a convent, and her grin is too wide; too, she is the tallest Sophie ever to grace this production — she has all the goods for Sophie, but she isn’t Sophie, at least not in this production. Perhaps they play the part more maturely in her native Sweden, a country sadly lacking in aristocratic convents.

Kristin Sigmundsson, tall even beside Susan Graham, made a grabby, sleazy, stingy, you-love-him-because-you-loathe-him Baron Ochs. His grainy voice is not what one would want in a lover in any case, and both his topmost and bottom notes were weak to inaudibility, but he inhabited the role to perfection. Hans-Joachim Ketelsen sang a fine Faninal, less dignified than some — but then, the man is a ridiculous snob, redeemed only because the piece is a comedy with Mozartean aspirations. Wendy White, as Annina, and Jennifer Check, as Sophie’s governess had the loudest voices on stage, though Jeremy Galyon’s policeman came close.

Some of the less well-judged cutenesses that afflicted recent revivals are gone, and the entire presentation is snappier. Either Robin Guarino or Edo de Waart should have most of the credit, but all hands win applause.

John Yohalem

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):